Monthly Archives: December 2013

Lems Shoes Mariner Review

Casual Boat Shoe Look with Classic Lems Shoes Feel
Lems Shoes has added yet another model to their fantastic line-up, the Mariner, with a casual boat shoe look but undeniable Lems Shoes characteristics including great ground feel, lightweight feel, and an anatomical foot fit. Excellent construction and high-quality materials make the Mariner an ideal additional to any minimalist footwear collection.

Quick Details
Price: $105 USD
Width: Narrow to Wide
Sole Thickness: 9.0 mm
Drop: 0 mm
Weight: 6 oz or 170 grams
Insole: Removable; 5/8 ounces or 18 grams
Sizing: 37–48; Full sizes only; Check Lems Shoes website for sizing
Category: Casual, Boat Shoe

Comfort & Fit
Upon first donning the Mariner, I was once again pleased with how comfortable these Lems Shoes felt on my feet considering their wonderful width and anatomically foot-shaped last. However, my first walk outside in them turned out to be disappointing as the skin on the back of my Achilles only lasted 10 minutes before succumbing to the sharp edge of the heel cup, even through a pair of thick wool toe socks. I contacted Lems to ask about the issue and was told that, indeed, the Mariners are known to rub the back of the heel initially, but after breaking in, the offending area softens and no longer causes pain. This issue does not affect all wearers, however, as a fellow minimal shoe reviewer friend of mine had no such issues whatsoever (you can check out her Mariner review here). I am extremely happy to report that after healing, another walk in the Mariners, with socks of course, did not yield the same hole in my skin. The leather really does soften with wear so if you like their look and find them comfortable in every other way, I am confident in reporting that they do require a break in period and afterwards feel even more comfortable.

One of my favourite features of the Mariner is the design of the midfoot upper. The cushiony soft, padded tongue feels wonderful against the skin and the three-hole eyelet lacing allows for a customizable fit across the top of the foot for a great range of widths. From a narrow to a wide foot, this design allows for a perfect fit while preserving the width of the toe box. Along with an extra long throat, these shoes are super easy to slip on and off but feel solidly in place with the laces tied just right. Although initially sharp, the heel cup is also a great height to maintain a good hold on the heel without slipping.

The Mariner comes with a removable, moisture-wicking, 3.0 mm Lems insole, which is a wonderful option for those who prefer a snugger fit and may want less ground feel. I like extra volume to my shoes and maximum ground feel so wear the Mariners without the insole. The footbed is perfectly comfortable alone and the seam joining the upper is unobtrusive.

Barefoot Feel & Function
The Mariners feature the same outsole as the recently reviewed Lems Sweet Janes, reviewed here. The injection rubber outsole may seem thick at 9.0 mm but it is fantastically flexible for its thickness. Small rocks will not be felt through the material but the shoe easily bends around ground contours. Hardcore barefooters may dislike the muted ground feel but I think this makes for a great introductory minimalist shoe as the flexibility will increase foot muscle strength and agility. Their anatomic last easily allows for natural foot movement.

Weighing in at 6 ounces or 170 grams (for the size 39), they are well within the range of lightweight for a minimalist shoe. The design and choice of materials also lends to a well balanced feel between the upper and the outsole.

The Mariners have amazing traction on both wet and dry man-made surfaces. In addition, you could easily wear these on dry or slightly damp light trails. Their great grip make them an ideal travelling shoe where ground conditions may be varied.

Upper Qualities
The Mariner upper is made of mostly leather and a bit of mesh at the midfoot of both sides. The leather appears to be of excellent quality, was a bit stiff brand new but has softened with wear. To improve the longevity of the leather, I would recommend a good quality leather shoe protector. They are not water resistant despite their boat shoe design; your feet will get wet on deck. As mentioned above, a break-in period is essential for this shoe with ample heel protection. Once the leather in the heel cup has softened, they are far more comfortable in this area. I did find the rest of the shoe perfectly comfortable and not needing a break-in period but they have become softer in other areas as well.

Sole Qualities
The outsole is made of 9.0 mm LemsRubber™ injection rubber with a zero drop design. The lateral corner of the heel features a denser rubber material for increased longevity, which is a fabulous design feature. Although slightly less flexible in the very outside edge of the outsole,  this adds considerable durability to the high-wear area. The rest of the outsole is wonderfully flexible with a great traction pattern and 3.0 mm grip depth. As with all Lems Shoes products, there is no arch support designed into the shoe.

Overall Quality
Both the materials and manufacturing appears to be of the highest quality; there are no flaws in either of the review pairs. With a good leather protector, I suspect this shoe will last a very long time with its high quality leather and sturdy construction. The outsole will also a last long time as after a number of testing walks on high-abrasion surfaces, there still is no sign of wear at all on the rubber outsole.

Style
These shoes have a distinctive boat shoe look to them with their exposed raised seam along the vamp, minimal midfoot enclosure, and large throat. They have a classic, casual appeal and come in both a light beige Sand as well as a rich brown Caramel colourway for both men and women.

Uses
The Mariners are ideal for errands around town or long walks exploring new places. Their solid construction, great traction, compressible packability, and good looks make these an ideal choice for urban adventures, especially while travelling. They are a casual shoe so not quite suitable for running but short hikes on light trails would suit these quite well.

Value
At $105 USD, they are priced in the mid-range of minimalist shoes overall and the low end of the high-quality leather minimalist shoe range. Both the upper and the outsole are of the highest quality of materials and construction, and will likely last a long time making these a great value for their price.

Summary
One of five Lems Shoes models, the Mariner is their boat shoe-styled casual option available for both men and women. Offered in two colourways, these sturdily constructed shoes are made of the highest quality leather and Lems injection rubber, zero drop, flexible outsole. Although this model does require a break-in period, particularly in the heel area, the leather does soften with wear for a comfortable and individual fit. The wonderfully wide toe box and exceptionally designed enclosure system with minimal lacing eyelets allows this shoe to fit a wide range of foot widths comfortably and well.

As an aside, if you would prefer a more vegan-oriented casual shoe, the Mariner will be available in this option of upper in 2014.

For more information or to purchase the Mariner, you can check out the Lems Shoes website.